Starting February 5, 2014, one of our hallway cases will feature a selection of Masonic and fraternal ritual objects from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library collection.
Among the more than twenty objects on view will be favorites such as a trick chair, one of our ritual bells and a ritual beehive thought to have been used in a Masonic lodge. We will also be showcasing two altars, as well as several officers' staffs and ritual props. In addition to objects used in Masonic lodges, material from the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Modern Woodmen of America, the Daughters of Rebekah and other fraternal organizations will be exhibited.
Masonic and fraternal organizations teach new members about their groups’ values and symbols through ritual. These ceremonies often feature props, special furniture and other paraphernalia. All of the intriguing objects that will be exhibited were designed to not only help convey certain concepts and illustrate important symbols, but to also focus initiates’ and members’ attention. Imaginatively-wrought ritual props were often oversized and brightly decorated. Ritual props did not need to function as the actual objects that inspired them did. For example, static metal feathers and gold-painted dowels represented arrows in the whimsically colored and ornamented quiver pictured here. Combined with a darkened lodge room, dramatic lighting and bright costumes, props and other specially-designed objects enriched the presentation of Masonic and fraternal ritual. In the accompanying photograph members of a York Rite chapter that met in Baxter Springs, Kansas, many wearing regalia, posed for a portrait in the lodge room where they likely presented ritual. Shutters covering the buildings’ windows both protected members’ privacy and assisted them in creating an appropriate setting for ritual. Along with a suitable venue, ritual objects helped make the time initiates and members spent in the lodge room--and the lessons they learned there--memorable.
Independent Order of Odd Fellows Ritual Quiver and Arrows, 1850-1900. American. Museum Purchase, 96.050. Photograph by David Bohl.
Royal Arch Degree Team, 1890-1900. Baxter Springs, Kansas. Special Acquisitions Fund, 88.42.112.